The Humanitarian Encyclopedia

During the COVID-19 crisis we are offering our expertise in the shape of webinars, scientific articles, shared guidance and field experiences, health assessment tools for outbreak management in humanitarian settings, concept analysis and more

For more information:

The Humanitarian Encyclopedia offers this inclusive online space for dialogue and promotes co-production of new knowledge to enhance collaboration in future humanitarian responses.

The Humanitarian Encyclopedia is the product developed by humanitarian professionals and academics, aware of the necessity of speaking the same clear language, sharing knowledge as a public good and co-producing new forms of knowledge to guide future humanitarian responses.

The Humanitarian Encyclopedia is:

  • A living repository of co-produced humanitarian concepts
  • An open source library of relevant humanitarian resources
  • A dynamic mapping of humanitarian actors
  • An interactive platform with online forums, webinars and e-learning modules

The need for a more collaborative response to humanitarian crises

In modern humanitarian crises, a collective response that is timely, adequate and well coordinated is imperative to be able to adapt to an ever-changing environment and more and more complex situations. Today, collaboration between the first responders, which have increasingly become local actors from civil society organisations or public services, and international humanitarian organisations is determinant. As such, the recognition and inclusion of these new actors in the humanitarian system requires the need to create a common understanding and formulation of the key humanitarian concepts in order to build a bridge between all these multiple diverse actors and promote an open dialogue to improve collective humanitarian action.  

The need for an online, inclusive space for dialogue and exchange

Creating an online space where humanitarian practitioners, academics, researchers, local actors and international organisations can share evidence, knowledge and information to make informed decisions would be a valuable resource and public good.  This space needs to guarantee and promote open dialogue and mutual respect.

The project uses the concept of ‘digital humanities’ in the creation of an interactive, online database, providing the environment and tools for producing, curating, and interacting with knowledge that is not necessarily born as digital but becomes so via the open source platform. This approach creates new ways of study that involve collaborative, transdisciplinary, and online research and publishing.

The need for a pluralistic co-production of knowledge

The diversity of perspectives and views on humanitarianism guided by history, academic and professional disciplines, culture, religion, organisational cultures and contexts is seen as a richness and can be used to understand the various meanings some of the humanitarian concepts may take in some situations. Recognizing diversity, pluralism and sometimes consensus will help build a common source of knowledge. It is important that the development of new knowledge be guided by humanitarian professionals’ needs, and co-produced with academics from various disciplines such as history, anthropology, politics, sociology and linguistics.

Recent news

Write about a humanitarian concept
Humanitarian Encyclopedia calls for contributors to explain 129 concepts most central to humanitarian action. Make the Humanitarian Encyclopedia yours!Apply to author a concept here The…
Read More

Get involved

If you would like to provide feedback or comment on our project or provide content to enhance our research please do.


ALNAP research has consistently found a high degree of terminology inconsistency for key humanitarian concepts. This can often result in a lack of clarity at both a theoretical and practical level. An initiative aimed at finding a shared understanding for these concepts has the potential to make collective action more effective and bring about changes and improvements in humanitarian action.
John Mitchell, ALNAP Director
In recent years, CERAH has become an internationally recognized educational platform. The Humanitarian Encyclopedia Project marks a new milestone, as an ambitious research project elaborated under the auspices of CERAH. We thank the Swiss Development and Cooperation agency (SDC) as well as the Advisory Board and members of the Scientific Committee for their support to this project, and wish you every success. In this context, we at the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies intend not only to maintain our support to CERAH. We also plan to enhance that support through greater involvement of our professors in CERAH’s teaching and research activities.
Prof Y. Fluckiger, Rector, University of Geneva & Prof P. Burrin, Director, IHEID
With greater localisation of humanitarian action, ADRRN sees immense value in the Encyclopedia project. We see it as a bridge-building as well as a learning tool for dialogue and joint action with the increasing number and variety of actors.
Manu GUPTA, Chairperson, Asian Disaster Reduction & Response Network (ADRRN)